Bristol Freighter

Bristol Freighter

Infobox Aircraft
name= Type 170 Freighter / Wayfarer

caption= Bristol Frieghter in Norcanair colours at the Western Canada Aviation Museum c. 2007
type=Cargo aircraft
manufacturer=Bristol Aeroplane Company
first flight=December 1945
primary user=Silver City Airways
more users=
number built=214
unit cost=
variants with their own articles=Bristol Superfreighter
The Bristol Type 170 Freighter was a British twin-engined piston engined aircraft designed and built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company as both a freighter and airliner, although its best known use is as an air ferry to carry cars and their passengers over relatively short distances.

Design and development

The Bristol Type 170 was designed originally as a rugged heavy duty transport to operate from unimproved airstrips. After the end of the Second World War the design was adapted by the Bristol Chief Designer A.E. Russell and his design team as a rugged heavy duty aircraft. It was an all-metal, twin-engined high-wing monoplane and built without the use of expensive alloys and with a minimum of machined parts. The square-sectioned fuselage was designed to be clear of internal obstructions. The flight deck was high in the fuselage nose, accessed via a ladder.

The Freighter is a somewhat bulbous and cumbersome-looking aircraft. Like the more slender prewar Bristol Bombay, it is a high-wing monoplane with fixed undercarriage (landing gear), the main gear legs supported by substantial vertical struts beneath the Bristol Hercules radial engines and horizontally from the lower edge of the (slab-sided) fuselage. The cockpit sits atop the forward fuselage with two large clam shell doors at the nose, making the unpressurised fuselage somewhat breezy; one Kiwi pilot claimed his charge was "40 thousand rivets flying in close formation."

The prototype, registered G-AGPV, first flew at Filton on 2 December 1945, it was an empty shell without nose doors.

Operational history

The second prototype and the first 34-seat Wayfarer, registered "G-AGVB", first flew on 30 April 1946. The second prototype began proving flights in the colours of Channel Islands Airways. It carried over 10,000 passengers in under six months. The third aircraft, registered "G-AGVC," was the first Freighter I and had fully operating nose doors. After a number of demonstration flights around world the Bristol 170 entered full production. One of the first sales was to the Argentine Air Force which ordered 15 aircraft.

The managing director of Silver City Airways was Wing Commander "Taffy" Grimth James Powell, who realised that he could adapt the Bristol Freighter to fly passengers with their cars from Britain to Continental Europe and Jersey. This "air ferry" would allow Britishers on holiday to avoid lengthy waits for the sea ferries. On the 14 July 1948, the airline made the first flight with a car, from Lydd Airport in Kent to Le Touquet on the northern coast of France.

In 1953, production of the freighter was moved to Weston-super-Mare and an elongated version to carry three cars, the Freighter 32 entered service. Silver City Airways dubbed these variants "Superfreighters".

The last two freighters of the 214 built were delivered in 1958, one to New Zealand in February and the last aircraft to Dan-Air in March 1958. The New Zealand aircraft was delivered to SAFE who eventually operated one of the largest fleets of Freighters. One of the elongated aircraft, registered G-AMWA, had 60 seats fitted and was known as a Super Wayfarer.

Other civil uses

In New Zealand SAFE Air (Straits Air Freight Express) moved rail freight from Wellington (the North Island) to Blenheim (the South Island) and back, using Bristol Freighters reconfigured to accept palletised cargo loaded on patented "cargons". This was a first anywhere in the aviation world.

Cargons were loaded near the rail yards and their load was calculated and arranged to remain within the aircraft's load and centre of gravity limits. They were then trucked to the airport and mechanically loaded as a unit from devices that were electric-motor powered via screw-jacks. The loader accepted pallets from horizontal-tray road vehicles and then raised them to allow loading into the nose of the tail-wheeled aircraft. Other adaptations allowed the carrying of horses and other high-value large animals.

Freighters were the major link between the Chatham Islands and the rest of the world until Armstrong Whitworth Argosys replaced them. SAFE Air developed a pressurised 'container' for the half of the aircraft given over to passengers on these flights.

Military users

In military service Bristol Freighters were operated by the air forces of Argentina, Australia, Burma, Canada, Iraq, Pakistan and New Zealand. Bristol Freighters were operated briefly by the Pakistan Air Force. Some of their aircraft were bought by SAFE Air and used in New Zealand.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force ordered 12 "Mk 31M" Freighters in the late 1940s. RNZAF Freighters ranged as far as supplying the New Zealand Army in Malaya, the British High Commissions (and other support staff) in the Maldives, Ceylon, India and Nepal, performing FEAF tasks in Malaya (often when other aircraft types were unservicable due to maintenance problems) and Hong Kong. They ran a highly reliable military shuttle service for allies in Thailand during the Vietnam War and served several other roles, being adapted for — amongst other things — aerial top dressing experiments, although, to avoid competition with private enterprise, the NZ government did not to use them in that role.

Final days

The New Zealand Freighters were retired from military use when replaced by Hawker Siddeley Andovers in the 1970s. After retirement a number of smaller local operators briefly flew Freighters. Some were exported to Canada. A SAFE Air Freighter is preserved at Blenheim and another at the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum in Christchurch. A third is being restored at Ardmore near Auckland. Other Freighter airframes around New Zealand now serve as novelty tea-rooms and backpacker hostels.

One Freighter was in service in turn with British Ministry of Supply (G-AIMI then WB482), the RAAF (A81-1) and subsequently went into commercial use in Australia until 1978 after which it went on to become a museum exhibit and was given over to the RAAF museum at Point Cook, Victoria, Australia in 1988.

Bristol freighter Mk 31M G-BISU was operated by Instone Airline at Stansted, Essex, UK, for a number of years. This was an ex-RNZAF aircraft and left Ardmore on 2 March 1981 for its 86-hour ferry flight to the UK, it subsequently flew its first charter flight on 3 August 1981 delivering two racehorses to Deauville. This role of flying livestock was to take up half a year while other work included carriage of oil drilling machinery, car parts, newspapers and mail.

Another Bristol Freighter, "C-FDFC" (cn 13218) crashed on takeoff with the crew escaping but was essentially a write-off. The Captain, John Duncan and Co-Pilot, Malcolm Cutter reported that the aircraft entered a severe yaw after take-off which was uncontrollable despite use of full opposite aileron and rudder control.

The last Freighter in service, which flew for Instone Airline then later returned to New Zealand, was bought from surplus by Hawkair in Terrace, British Columbia, Canada. In 2004, this aircraft undertook its final flight to the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. An example (CF-WAE) is found at the Western Canada Aviation Museum, formerly flown by Norcanair.


;Freighter Mk I:Utility transport Series I or Freighter with a strengthened floor and hydraulically operated nose doors.

;Freighter Mk IA:Mixed-traffic variant with 16-passenger seats

;Freighter Mk IB:Variant of Mk I for British European Airways

;Freighter Mk IC:Variant of Mk IA for British European Airways

;Freighter Mk ID:Variant of Mk IA for British South American Airways

;Wayfarer Mk II:Airliner (passenger variant) Series II or Wayfarer. Nose doors were omitted and additional windows were added.

;Wayfarer Mk IIA:Variant of Mk II with 32 seats

;Wayfarer Mk IIB:Variant of Mk IIA for British European Airways

;Wayfarer Mk IIC:Variant of Mk II with 20 seats and baggage hold

;Freighter Mk XI:Variant of Mk I with 108 ft(32.92m) wing and extra tankage

;Freighter Mk XIA:Mixed-traffic version of Mk IX

;Freighter Mk 21:More powerful engined version

;Freighter Mk 21E:Convertible version of Mk 21 with 32 removable seats

;Freighter Mk 31:Variant of Mk 21 with larger fin

;Freighter Mk 31E:Convertible version of Mk 31

;Freighter Mk 31M:Military version of Mk 31 with provision for supply dropping

;Freighter Mk 32:Higher capacity version with fuselage lengthend by 5ft (1.52m)

;Type 179 Freighter:Unbuilt project. Twin-boom version. Not built

;Type 179A Freighter:Unbuilt project. The aircraft was intended to have an unswept tail and a ramp-loading door.

;Type 216 Freighter:Unbuilt project. Car ferry version. It was intended to be powered by two Roll-Royce Dart turboprop engines.


Civil operators

*Argentine Civil Aeronautics Board;AUS
*Air Express
*Australian National Airways
*Brain & Brown Airfreighters
*Jetair Australia
*Trans Australia Airlines;BEL
*Avions Fairey
*REAL Transportes Aereos;CAN
*Associated Airways
*Central Northern Airways
*Maritime Central Airways
*North Canada Air
*Pacific Western Airlines
*Trans Canada Airlines
*Trans Provincial Airlines
*Shell Company of Ecuador;IRL
*Aer Lingus
*Aer Turas;FRA
*Air Atlas
*Air Fret
*Air Outremer
*Cie Air Transport
*Cie des Transportes Aeriens Intercontinentaux
*Corse Air
*Societe Aerienne du Littoral
*Societe Indo Chinoise des Transportes Aeriens
*Transportes Aeriens Reunis;GER
*Panavia Ltd;IND
*Bharat Airways
*Dalmia Jain Airways
*Indian National Airways;ITA
*Societe Avio Transporti Torino;LAO
*Air Laos;LBN
*Middle East Airlines;NZL
*West African Airways Corporation;flag|Rhodesia
*Central African Airways;SAU
*Saudi Arabian Airlines;ESP
*Air Charter
*Air Ferry
*Air Kruise
*Aviation Traders
*BKS Air Transport
*British Air Ferries
*British European Airways
*British United Air Ferries
*Channel Air Bridge
*Channel Airways
*Channel Island Airways
*Hunting Air Surveys
*Instone Airlines
*Manx Airlines
*Midland Air Cargo
*Ministry of Civil Aviation
*Silver City Airways
*Trans European Aviation;VIE
*Air Vietnam

Military operators

*Argentine Air Force;AUS
*Royal Australian Air Force;BIR
*Burmese Air Force;CAN
*Royal Canadian Air Force;IRQ
*Iraqi Air Force;NZL
*Royal New Zealand Air Force
**No. 1 Squadron RNZAF
**No. 3 Squadron RNZAF
**No. 41 Squadron RNZAF
**Transport Support Unit RNZAF;PAK
*Royal Pakistan Air Force;UK
*A&AEE Boscombe Down
*Telecommunications Research Establishment

pecifications (Mk 21E)

aircraft specifications

plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=prop


crew=3 (Pilot, Co-pilot and signaller/loadmaster)
payload main=
payload alt=
length main=68 ft 4 in
length alt=20.82 m
span main=98 ft 0 in
span alt=29.87 m
height main=21 ft 8 in
height alt=6.60 m
area main=1,405 sq ft
area alt=130.53 m²
empty weight main=24,000 lb
empty weight alt=11,780 kg
loaded weight main=36,500 lb
loaded weight alt=16,556 kg
useful load main=
useful load alt=
max takeoff weight main=
max takeoff weight alt=
more general=

engine (prop)=Bristol Hercules 734 14 Cylinder Sleeve Valve Radial
type of prop= De Havilland 4 Bladed Fully Feathering propellers
number of props=2
power main=1690 hp
power alt=1259 kW
power original=

max speed main=230 mph
max speed alt=370 km/h
cruise speed main=166 mph
cruise speed alt=267 km/h
stall speed main=
stall speed alt=
never exceed speed main=
never exceed speed alt=
range main=
range alt=
ceiling main=
ceiling alt=
climb rate main=
climb rate alt=
loading main=
loading alt=
power/mass main=
power/mass alt=
more performance=



ee also



similar aircraft=
*Blackburn Beverley
*Armstrong Whitworth AW.650 Argosy
*Aviation Traders Carvair

see also=

* List of cargo aircraft




* "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft" (Part Work 1982-1985). London: Orbis Publishing, 1985.
* Jackson, A.J. "British Civil Aircraft Since 1919, Volume 1". London: Putnam, 1974. ISBN 0-370-10006-9.

External links

* [ RNZAF Museum Freighter page]
* [ RAAF Museum, Point Cook]

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